Clothing drive, fundraiser organized for family who lost home in Sunday blaze at former Rusty Rail bar
Editor’s note: Randy Jones and Deborah Edwards lost nearly everything in the fire reported here, including most of their clothing. Friends and family members are organizing a clothing drive to help them. Deborah wears a women’s size 9/10 in shorts and pants, a size large shirt and size 7.5 shoe. Randy wears a men’s size large shirt, 32/32 jeans and a size 9.5 shoe. Those wishing to donate clothes are asked to contact Barbara Rife, 679-0465 or 417-255-3626 to arrange delivery/drop off. A Go Fund Me fundraiser has also been setup by the couple’s daughter. To donate, visit www.gofundme.com and search for “Fire relief for Randy Jones and Deborah Edwards,” or click here.
More than 20 volunteer firefighters from seven area volunteer fire departments worked together Sunday to extinguish a blaze at the former Rusty Rail bar and an attached family home on J Highway near the Missouri-Arkansas line.
The owners, Randy Jones and longtime fiancee Deborah Edwards, who lived in a residential section at the rear of the building, safely escaped, along with their dog, but nearly everything the couple owned was destroyed in the blaze. A motorhome parked in front of the structure was destroyed and a vehicle parked outside was also damaged, but a nearby unattached garage was saved.
According to Edwards’ daughter Angela Marin, Randy was outside working on the motorhome when the vehicle “backfired and blew up, causing the bar to catch fire too.”
The family has not yet been able to estimate the total cost of the damage caused by the blaze.
Seven area VFDs respond
The fire was first reported to the Ozark County Sheriff’s Department’s 911 line at 1:32 p.m. Sunday, June 14. A dispatcher quickly called Lick Creek VFD to respond as the primary fire department since the structure is within its fire district. Because the blaze was so close to the state line, Clarkridge (Arkansas) VFD was also called for mutual aid in the dispatch’s initial 1:32 p.m. call.
LCVFD fire chief Jerry Rowlett told the Times that the front of the building was engulfed in flames when he and other CVFD firefighters arrived on scene.
At 1:50 p.m., almost 20 minutes after Lick Creek and Clarkridge were called, the dispatcher called for additional departments to respond in mutual aid.
The Ozark County Sheriff’s call log shows that Pontiac/ Price Place VFD personnel arrived on scene at 2:32 p.m., about an hour after the 911 call was first made, followed by Gainesville VFD one minute later. Tecumseh VFD responded at 2:43 p.m. and Oakland/Promised Land (Arkansas) VFD at 2:52 p.m.
Timber Knob VFD drove to a Gainesville grocery store and returned with water for the firefighters. Community residents and drivers also brought firefighters water and Gatorade.
Tecumseh VFD assistant chief J. B. Duke said the responding departments’ tanker trucks made several trips to Sandy Beach, on Norfork Lake in Arkansas, to refill with water as the firefighting efforts continued. Rowlett estimated approximately 30,000 gallons of water was used. The structure’s tin roof on top of several layers of asphalt shingles made the fire almost impossible to extinguish, he said.
“Thank you to Clarkridge, Oakland/Promised Land, Pontiac, Timber Knob, Gainesville and Tecumseh Volunteer Fire Departments for their mutual aid with us,” Lick Creek VFD chief Jerry Rowlett said in a Sunday night Facebook post. “The weather was hot and the heat intense, but they helped us contain the Rusty Rail fire on J Highway at the state line.” Commenting on an Ozark County Times post reporting the fire, Rowlett’s wife, June, said they held their wedding reception in the building 22 years earlier.
Ambulances from Ozark County Ambulance and Baxter Regional Medical Center also responded. At least three firefighters were treated at the scene for heat exhaustion.
Lick Creek was the last department to clear the scene at 9:08 p.m., meaning volunteer firefighters put in nearly eight hours battling the structure fire.
The owners continued to watch the remaining rubble as it smoldered so they could report any flare-ups. “We are very thankful to all the firefighters and first responders who came and helped,” Angela Marin told the Times Monday. “They tried really hard to save the structure.”
A local landmark
Randy and Deborah purchased the Rusty Rail bar in 2007 from Randy’s parents, who had owned the establishment for a long time before that, the family told the Times. The establishment was known by local patrons for its live music, bar food and cold drinks. The bar was a family-run business when it was operational with Randy and Deborah, along with their daughters Amanda and Angela, working there. The bar closed in 2011, but the couple retained ownership of the building.
Randy put a new roof on it a couple of years ago; the couple had been living in the back part of the building, which was renovated as a residence, for the last four years.